There's no shortage of content breaking on social channels every day. We seem to be inundated with PR and marketing stunts by brands trying to capture our attention.
It's a tried and true tactic that has been used for years, but what makes or breaks them is brand alignment. Conversation alone does not drive emotional connections; it just creates more noise. When people are talking about a stunt, however, and the brand benefits are so clear and well understood, that's when the magic happens.
It's not a fail-proof tactic, but there's a lot to learn from brands that have done it well.
A good idea can become a newsworthy stunt that demands public attention and prompts social sharing, but how long does the attention span last? In many cases, not very long. And that's okay. A good PR stunt can make its point and reach a wide audience quickly before disappearing. But a great PR stunt will be noteworthy and can position a brand as timeless. It will be referenced in brainstorms across the world and will inspire a new way of thinking about your brand and what it's capable of.
I'm willing to bet there aren't many people out there who haven't heard of The Red Bull Stratos Live Jump. This is an example of a stunt that took Red Bull's brand to the next level by elevating their position as a brand that encourages people to take risks, be adventurous and reach new heights. The stunt was literally about transcending human limits and aligned perfectly with their brand message.
Here are three more examples of effective PR stunts:
An unusual stunt can certainly grab peoples' attention. Take the KFC Chicken Corsage stunt, for example, which arrived just in time for prom. The popular fast food restaurant chain is offering a limited number of fried chicken corsages through Louisville, Ky., florist Naz & Kraft. The $20 bouquet made to replace the traditional corsage is creative, funny and certainly earned them coverage in North America's mainstream media. It's a good fit since a good part of KFC's target market is young people who frequent the restaurant. The quirky and unexpected stunt gives their brand a different visibility by presenting its product in a completely different way, which could perhaps set the stage for ongoing promotion in future prom seasons.
Caterpillar Inc., a well-known heavy equipment manufacturer recently created the ultimate big-boy version of Jenga using their industrial machines to play a giant game. With only Cat machines and attachments, five operators used 27 giant wooden blocks to play this classic game. This stunt was big in size and in effect, creatively showcasing machinery, strength and precision. This aligned perfectly with Caterpillar's brand message as a company that designs and manufactures precision machinery.
This wasn't just a stunt for the sake of doing a stunt. It had everything to do with what the company actually does and the evident connection made it more powerful. If asked to name a machine manufacturer a few weeks earlier I wouldn't have had an answer, but these days Caterpillar is at the top of my mind. The stunt allowed what many would consider to be a niche player the opportunity to enter a broader conversation through social. The company took a mainstream idea and tied it to the brand.
Another great example was a series of giant empty crates placed in front of popular monuments throughout Paris in a way that made it appear as if wild animals had escaped from them. The crates had large images of animals and the sides contained information about the grand opening of Paris' Zoological Park. The stunt was simple, but its presence caught the attention of people passing by. It aligned with their overall goal to create awareness for their new zoo. It's another good example of a PR stunt done well.
What's going to be the next big stunt? As summer slowly makes its way to Canada there has to be an opportunity for a brand to do something big. Polar vortex is over. Who's going to be the first to take advantage of that trend?
Mia Pearson is the co-founder of North Strategic. She has more than two decades of experience in creating and growing communications agencies, and her experience spans many sectors, including financial, technology, consumer and lifestyle.